Here I Go Again

August 9, 2010 -

John Heald

The hamburger is dead.  Long live the Burrito…

And remember this date well because as I sit here at my desk on the Carnival Splendor in my underpants I am on August 8 2010 predicting that we are witnessing………the end of the hamburger.

There will, of course, be a service held at Carnival’s Headquarters in Miami, to mark the event. A silver platter of Lido Deck Carnival hamburgers will be borne aloft by hamburger-bearers Micky Arison, Gerry Cahill who will hold a poignant service attended by shore side staff and shipboard crew and Chef’s past and present. And an epitaph will be written in ketchup above their final resting place that will say “From the Mardi Gras to your Carnival Dream…….they tasted good with cheese.”

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy a hamburger as much as the next person but reports are suggesting that with the multiple choices available to our guests and after 35 years of loyal Carnival service …………has nowhere else to go.

How, for example, can you improve on the burgers we serve on Lido with toppings of mushrooms, onions, cheese and even chili……….short of offering a free Latvian woman with every order the hamburger will continue to be overlooked and left to a lonely life with only the odd hot dog to talk to.

I realised that the end was near last week as ate my solitary lunches on Lido. The Mongolian was heaving, the grand buffet and taste of the nations massively popular and even the Tandoori was tempting guests to try the exotic tastes of India. The chicken rotisserie thing was busy and news that we served the best mac and cheese in the world had made this option a true hit with guests …….especially those with kids onboard. Yet, as the Lido Deck echoed to the sound of chomping ……….the hamburger chef was Patel No Mates………….the hamburgers left uncooked, lonely and unwanted………it was so sad to see.

I ordered a burrito. It was a tortilla filled with marinated steak, rice, cheese, sour cream, grilled onions and peppers, salsa and lettuce. When wrapped and covered in crisp white paper and accompanied by some tortilla chips, it looked more substantial than a Lido Big Mac and weighed about as much as a bowling ball.

I am delighted to report that my burrito was delicious. It also seemed curiously healthy. And like the guests I too have spurned the hamburger ever since.

R.I.P. MacLidoburger

And on that sad note it’s time for today’s Q and A………… we go.

Can’t wait to sail! Asked:
Hi John! Please reply… sailing 8/8.

Great blog as always! When I sent in my (long) review for our Carnival Pride Cruise in February you had asked that I let you know a few weeks before we sail again – we are now getting close… woo hoo!! Sooooo looking forward to this cruise, it will be our first vacation without the kids in a while – don’t get me wrong I love them to death, but must admit I am craving some time to just kick back and have no responsibility !!

Thanks so much!

Enjoy the rest of your time at home with your beautiful family!!

John Says:
Hello Eric

By now you are already on the Carnival Legend and just in case you check this blog while on board I wanted to say that I hope you are having a fun and relaxing time and I look forward to hearing all about it when you return home.

Best wishes

David Sykes Asked:
^^^^^^*(*(*Please Reply John*(*(*^^^^^^^^^

Hey John, enjoy reading your blog, but I have a concern! We are booked on the Valor sailing Sep 12th 2010 from Miami. We have some other people going with us, and I was told by the guest services folks before that if the price of our cruise dropped, we would be entitled to some on board credit for the difference, which sounded fair. I however just checked, and the price of our cruise has dropped around 40 dollars or so per person, so around 80 dollars total. I just called to ask about getting my on board credit, since the cruise had dropped to 589 per person. I was told they could not give me any onboard credit, and that they can only upgrade my room. This is because I am a past guest they said, that almost sounds like I am being punished because I am a past guest? We wouldn’t mind being up one more deck, but we have already paid extra to be on 7th deck, so we are fine with that, and don’t want to be separated from the other folks going with us on the trip!! Is there anything that can be done about that? If that is the policy, it seems a bit unfair!! Thanks so much John!! David.

John Says:
Hello David Sykes

I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of our pricing system but I know plenty of people who do. Therefore I have sent your query directly to someone who will be able to help you and contact you accordingly. Thanks for letting me know. Have a brilliant time on the Carnival Valor and please let me know if there is anything else you need.

Best wishes

Kellyc Asked:
Hello John! (please reply when you have the time)

First, regarding Barney. As the mother of four grown sons, all now in their 20s, I can assure you that the best place for Barney (should Kye receive a stuffed version) is under the tire of a car. While Barney will, indeed, let out one last pitiful cry (that sounds a lot like a cow in labor), it is the quickest and most painless death for the creature.

Regarding Platinum status….we have purchased several cruises for family and friends which would put us at Platinum status if we had actually sailed, rather than those we purchased them for. In other words, we do the buying, they do the sailing! 🙂

Would it be possible for Carnival to re-evaluate their policy about this, and grant Platinum status for those of us in this situation?

All the best,

John Says:
Hello Kelly C

That was brilliantly written and surely even the most ardent animal lovers won’t object to Barney being mowed down by a large SUV driven by a large cruise director.

I think this is the first time I have read anything where people have purchased cruises for family and friends and asked for it to go toward their own platinum status. It is a very interesting suggestion and my first thoughts are that it is something that we could and probably should do. The complication would be if you book a group of say four cabins…… we attribute 4 cruises to your account or just one. Regardless of this, your generosity and loyalty to Carnival should I think be rewarded and I will certainly bring your suggestion to the table.

You must have some very happy friends and family who I am sure appreciate all you do for them.

Best wishes

Sea3po Asked:
John, (Reply wanted please)

You should tell your camp carnival staff that they need to speak American better. How can they look after the kids if they can’t speak American. Our kids didn’t not enjoy the camp on fascination. The cruise was Ok but this needs to be taken of.

John Says:
Hello Sea3po

I was very surprised to read this because I have never heard this complaint before. Certainly some of our Camp Carnival staff have accents coming from varied countries across the globe but all must have strong English skills before they are hired. However, I will certainly pass on your thoughts to the Camp Carnival senior management. I am glad you had a good cruise and thanks for taking the time to write.

Best wishes

Len Mckendrick Asked:
John, (please reply)

John don’t know if you remember us, we were on the bloggers cruise last December on the Dream.

We are for Edinburgh Scotland, Len Christine and Corrin or as you named her (the drunk). I would just like to say that we had a great time with you Stephanie and Craig and all the other Bloggers and we are sorry that we will not be with you on the next bloggers cruise. But we are book to cruise on the Splendor for the first time in December and I see that the cruise director is Skippy, what can you tell about Skippy, is he good? Is he even from down under? And does anyone have any video of Skippy in action.

John Says:
Hello Len McKendrick

Of course I remember you although I don’t remember referring to your wife like that ………… although I remember her love of wine that cruise.

You will truly enjoy Skippy. He is full of fun and just like the Australian kangaroo he takes his nickname from he will be bouncing around the ship all cruise long. Here is a photo of the Skipster.

You wrote Carnival Splendor but I am thinking you meant to write Carnival Sensation as that is the ship Skippy will be cruise director on in December.

Regardless, please can you send me your cabin number one month before you sail?

My best wishes to you all up there in beautiful and bonnie Scotland.

Mary Ann Taylor Asked:

First, thank you for the gifts to us & the family. (My in-laws think I have an in with a Carnival Cruiseline “Big Shot”; and of course I do – YOU! Even though my husband is still hobbling from his March cruise “golf” injury, we all had a great time. The crew/staff of the Miracle are wonderful. Plus the New York port (no flying) is a real bonus. Any hopes that Carnival might try Boston for a port? We will be cruising again on the Dream Halloween cruise – I just upgraded from Balcony to a Spa Balcony. Yeah! Plus I put in a request for the Chef’s Table via your site.

Finally, I thought you might be interested in some my thoughts on the Miracle NYC Cruise:

Note for future NYC cruisers – Don’t be fooled by signs for “baggage drop” – park your car in lot first – your baggage will be taken there. Otherwise like us you will have another 45 minutes to get back around a 10 minute turnaround.

Thanks to you we got a table for all 13 of us – The entire dining room staff including Mario our Maitre’D was very attentive.

Vivian – Carnival Cruise Loyalty Rep (so nice – we booked another cruise & got another cruise certificate) – can you put a word in that she needs a desk area? Swap her place with the Shopping area stand? I know she reads your blog because she mentioned that she saw my note about returning to the Miracle.

Liked table-side magician – saw him a couple of times in the dining room @ lunch.

Did drink mixing contest with my two sister-in-laws – embarrassed my niece when I took my “blow-up” Freddy to help with my drink making.

My husband & I don’t normally travel when kids are out of school & we were pleasantly surprised by lack of children sightings. We did late night dining so that did help.

We are avid non-smokers & even though the Casino was smoking, we thought the ventilation was much better than on the Carnival Liberty (plus on the Liberty smoking was allowed midship while viewing the “TV” screen.)

Entertainment: (Scale of 1-5)

Everyone loved Generations & Ticket to Ride (5)

When I saw “juggler” I waivered going to the show – more bowling pins thrown in the air? But I am so glad I did. Marcus Monroe was wonderful! We laughed the whole show & were impressed with his skills. He gets a high recommendation from our group. (5+)

However the ventriloquist did the same show we saw back in March and that could use an update. (2)

Comedians were good (3+)

Had a wonderful dinner @ Steakhouse

Our room stewards (still needed lots of ice for husband’s prior cruise injury) were wonderful.

Half Moon Cay was everyone’s favorite port. (Yes, time to build a pier there).

For all Carnival Ships:

Libraries – Where’s the books?

Piano Bar – this is such a nice idea, but please can’t this bar be non-smoking? This is for all the Carnival ships.

Funtimes: please include the movie start times. I would see a movie that I was interested in viewing, but didn’t know if I had to wait five or 45 minutes for it to begin.

In conclusion, a great time, but I think my family is suffering from major “Melting Chocolate Cake” withdrawal.

John Says:
Hello Mary Ann Taylor

This is why I encourage people to write reviews because I know that so many people will find this so helpful. I will make sure the ship gets to read this and one of your points had me checking something here on the Carnival Splendor and you know what…….we don’t do it here either…… and that’s having the TV movie start time in the Capers …….. bugger ………the Fun times. I will rectify that here and will ask the rest of the cruise directors to do the same.

The smoking issue has been going round and round here on the blog thingy. The piano bar here is non-smoking and we shall see what happens for the rest of the fleet as the subject continues to be discussed. I have never seen Marcus’s show but my colleagues have said the same as you that he is a must see entertainer.

Its sounds like you had a brilliant time and thanks again for the comments and I am glad I was able to help you.

Best wishes to you all

Roger Edges Asked:
Hi John, (please reply)

I’m about to go on my first cruise on the Liberty in a week and a half with my girlfriend, and I wanted to make the trip unforgettable by a surprise proposal!

I’ve been trying to call Carnival to set up something special on the cruise, but they keep telling me that I’ll need to talk to the cruise director once I’m on board. The problem is that I’ll be with my girlfriend full time then and it will be incredibly hard to find an excuse to get away from her for any length of time.

Do you have any suggestions about what I can do now to make our trip an event she’ll never forget? Any private tables, champagne, roses, etc. that I can pre-order or something like that?

Thank you so much,
Roger Edges

John Says:
Hello Roger Edges

I know you have been on your cruise already and I wanted to find out if the CD had been able to help you as I had requested and indeed if you now have a fiancée? Please let me know and I wish you both much happiness.

Best wishes

Larry Awbrey Asked:

Hey John need some help with table reservation for dinner on the freedom, we are sailing August 14 two couples would need a table and not a booth. thanks and hope to sail with you in 2011

John Says:
Hello Larry Awbrey

I am glad I saw this in time and will ask the maitre d on the Carnival Liberty to do his best to assist you.

Have a great cruise

Best Wishes

Ken Stevenson Asked:
John, (Please reply)

Reading the blog has left us wondering –

About the lady who was concerned at Carnival not adequately informing her about her muster station. She was Platinum, 10+ cruises. In all that time how often had she left her cabin without ever once paying attention to the diagram Carnival had posted on the door, about a foot in front of her face, explaining in detail where her muster station was?

About the man who justified needing a power strip because he needed his alarm clock to avoid missing his Shore Excursion. Has he ever looked through the book Carnival leaves in every cabin giving a wealth of information about the ship, the staff and crew, some do’s and don’t’s, the great 24/7 room service menu – and a few simple steps to set up a wakeup call on the cabin phone?

About the lady who missed fried chicken on her Carnival cruises. Has she ever tried the ‘chicken tenders’ at the grill? This great fried chicken is available every day.

About the folks who object to your attempts to make the cruise a little more enjoyable for some passengers. Have they ever stopped to consider the fact that at least a few of those passengers really need a little help?

Like us. As “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” becomes ever more meaningful as we age some of us geezers keep hoping for one more cruise, gimpy or not. It would be difficult to put into words how grateful we, and the others we’d inconvenience, can be. On September 1st we’ll be in Cozumel on the Legend celebrating our 60th anniversary (how can that be when I’m only 49?!) and a table for two near the entrance, our favorite is table #131, would sure be welcome. If you could get Ken Byrne to arrange that for cabin #7254 maybe we can join him in a chorus of “Danny Boy”.

You do good work, John, Keep it up.

Ken and Lorrene
Platinum Cruisers

John Says:
Hello Ken and Lorrene

For some reason after reading your posting I have the urge to shout “Amen.” Thanks for those wonderful insight s and I shall ask my great mate Ken to celebrate your amazing 60 years together by giving you his best rendition of Danny Boy.

I wish you a very happy anniversary and we all raise a glass to you in a toast to your next 60 years together.

Best wishes

That’s all for today. I will be back with more tomorrow.

Let’s do the news and start with the latest video from our friend Alistair Greening who of course will be the proud Entertainment Director of the much anticipated Queen Elizabeth. For those of you who love to see what happens behind the scenes during the birth of an ocean liner then this video is for you.

These video blogs that Cunard are making are terrific aren’t they and how super it is that they give us a view of how the ship with the most famous name on the ocean is getting ever closer to her maiden voyage. And doesn’t Alistair look good in a hard hat. He is one handsome and suave chap isn’t he…………………lucky sod.

Just before I left the UK I was watching a new reality TV show that I guess is quite popular in the States.  It’s called Undercover Boss, which follows chief executives secretly spending time working at grass roots level to understand better how their organization works………or doesn’t.

It’s the same premise I guess to the show called Back To The Floor in which our former President and CEO Bob Dickinson took part. One of his many duties was that of a cabin steward. He did very well except his towel animal of an elephant looked more like….. well …….. a towel.

I saw an episode of Undercover Boss in which the chief executive of Hooters was filmed struggling to keep up in a kitchen………probably because like everyone else who goes to Hooters he was concentrating on a huge pairs of knockers rather than a sodding chicken wing.

I can understand that it is a good thing for industry leaders to understand how things can go wrong between the beards coming up with an idea and it being implemented and it is a great chance for them to see what moral is like in their company.

What amazes me is that the employees never recognize their boss. Surely this is a problem right there. If the employees have no bloody clue who is at the top of the company ladder, how much do they really care about the company itself.

Well, this leads me nicely to a visit to Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam which was visited last week by Carnival Corporation & plc Chairman and CEO Micky Arison and his very lovely wife Madeleine.

Here is what happened

Micky and Madeleine Arison Visit Nieuw Amsterdam

Stan | August 6th, 2010

Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc, and his wife, Madeleine, arrived at Nieuw Amsterdam and the ship’s staff and the captain’s wife were present to welcome them to the ship.

We welcomed them in the Neptune Lounge with a mimosa and then took them on a tour of the ship. We started in the Crow’s Nest and throughout the tour they asked questions and we pointed out interests of the various areas we passed.

From left: Mrs. and Captain Van Zaane, Madeleine and Micky Arison, and Hotel Manager Stan Kuppens pose with the taxi in Club HAL

Mr. and Mrs. Arison thanked us for the tour and kept saying that the ship is absolutely stunning and that we did an amazing job getting it ready and in service so well.

That evening Mr. Arison came to the bridge to see us depart from Naples and later they went up to the Crow’s Nest to meet the officers and petty officers of the Nieuw Amsterdam. We had set up a cocktail reception, created a welcome banner, had drinks, appetizers and music. We also played a slide show which was a combination of all of the pictures we had taken at the yard. They gave a wonderful overview of the building of the Nieuw Amsterdam from beginning until the inaugural sailing

Micky Arison with Captain Van Zaane

From third from left: Mrs. Van Zaane and Madeleine Arison with officers and staff

Later they enjoyed dinner at Tamarind and then went to the Showroom at Sea to see Cantare and experience our new entertainment concept. They both have mentioned how much they enjoy being on the Nieuw Amsterdam and that they are really pleased with the ship and how much pride we showed in our beautiful vessel.

My sincere thanks to Stan Kuppens who is Nieuw Amsterdam’s hotel manager. I copied that straight from and thank him for allowing me to do so. The Holland America blog features news and information from each of their ships and it is a brilliant read. There is no doubt that having Mr. and Mrs. Arison visit your ship is the equivalent of a royal visit. Mr. Arison continues to be so passionate about the industry he has helped grow and flourish.

I can tell you that if you were to show his photo to a pasta cook on a Costa ship, a dancer on a Princess ship, a stateroom steward on a P&O ship, a junior engineer on a Holland America ship, a cleaner on a Seabourn yacht, a waiter on a Cunard ship, a musician on an AIDA ship or a bartender on a Carnival ship…………each and every employee would say “That’s Mr. Arison.”

The only way he could go on Undercover Boss would be if be in disguise………I have a Dolly Parton costume he could borrow.

And so a very good morning and if there is ever anyone who says that I am not dedicated to this blog let me say that as I sit here……in my underpants…..the clock at the bottom of my computer tells me it is 6:35am.

Sunday was a busy day full of immigration, moving cabin, scraping bits of Goose of the walls and unpacking. By the time I had done that it was already time for the safety drill and then a meeting and then the welcome aboard show. So, what with my morning show, Fun Ashore talk and other stuff and with a three hour time difference between my underpants and the 344 Stephanies……I realized that unless I write now………….you wouldn’t get a blog today.

So as is normal on these occasions let’s see who is sailing with us on voyage SD7080810


NON U.S CITIZENS – 441 – 188 from Canada and 55 from Mexico are the largest two non US groups


Under 2 Years 10
2-5 Years (Camp Carnival) 122
6-8 Years (Camp Carnival) 128
9-11 Years (Camp Carnival) 168
12-14 Years (Circle “C”) 212
15-17 Years (Club 02) 246
18-20 Years 231

That’s over 1,000 kids out of 3,600 so there is definitely a family atmosphere onboard.

Now something I will be doing all this week is to publish each evening’s dinner menu in the Gold and Black Pearl Dining Rooms. I have been told on so many occasions here on the blog and in person by guests just how good the Carnival food quality is. And a lot of this praise has come from people who were told by snob Royal Norwegian Brand X cruisers that our food was simply dreadful. It isn’t. It’s brilliant and value for money wise……it’s unbeatable. Here’s what the guests are having for dinner, this elegant night.

Carpaccio of Fresh Pears & Citrus Segments
Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail
Baked Stuffed White Mushrooms
Minestrone Milanese
West Indian Pumpkin
Strawberry Bisque
Greek Farmer Salad
Caesar Salad
Spaghetti Carbonara
Grilled Filet of Fresh Victorian Perch
Duet of Broiled Lobster Tail  & Jumbo Shrimp
Supreme of Hudson Valley Duck
Prime Rib
Chili Rellenos
Black Tiger Shrimps
Fresh Fruit Cocktail
Grilled Flat Iron Steak
Grilled Breast of Corn Fed Chicken
Broiled Fillet Of Snapper
Baked Idaho Potatoes, French fries or Steamed White Rice
Assorted Steamed Vegetables
Supreme of Fresh Fruit
Spinach, Watercress & Alfa-Alfa
Pan Fried Filet of Grouper
Dinner Dessert Menu 2
Diet Banana Gateau – Spa
Caramelized Apples in Puff Pastry
Cherries Jubilee
Fresh Fruit Plate
Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

I love the Prime Rib. What would you have?

Here is the entertainment lineup for this cruise.

SUNDAY                                            WELCOME ABOARD SHOW – 10:30PM

MONDAY                                          THE BEAT – 8:30PM AND 10:30PM


TUESDAY                                          FIESTA LATINA – 7:00PM AND 8:45PM


WEDNESDAY                                   MEXICAN FOLKLORIC SHOW – 9:00PM


THURSDAY                                       TALENT SHOW AND BEDTIME STORY

FRIDAY                                              VROOM – 7:00PM AND 9:00PM


SATURDAY                                       CARNIVAL LEGENDS

I have to schedule my Marriage Show and will be holding a total of four Morning/Afternoon shows and my chat show. I will also include an up close and personal Q and A session that will replace the debarkation talk which as you know we don’t do anymore.

One thing that I am a little concerned about is the whole embarkation system here but I fear there is little I can do to make it better.  The ship was ready at 12:15 pm but we didn’t officially start embarkation until 1 pm. Now I know that there is lots to do to get the ship ready but this is the first embarkation home port I have been to where embarkation has started so late.

As for debarkation, well I can help improve this for sure and will explain how in the days ahead. However, we were told only to allow a certain amount of guests ashore at a time by CBP and the stop/start system meant that we started debarkation at 8:15am and finished at just before 11 am. Obviously this is my first week so I have a chance to help things get better but…..…..if first impressions are anything to go by …….our guests here in Long Beach are going to need a little more patience than usual when getting on and off the vessel.

Well last night I hosted my first welcome aboard show since returning from vacation. As I have written here before, the first time back on stage is always a bit of a nervous affair. Each theatre sounds different and feels different and that is always something that takes some getting used to. And there is always the worry that I won’t have a bloody clue what to say and even though before going out on stage the inside of my bottom probably looked like a chewed orange ……. I pretty much went straight into automatic. My timing was as rusty as 1979 Ford Pinto but the content was there and the audience seemed to have fun.

As I mentioned last week, the Californian crowd is much more laid back than the audiences I last entertained on the Carnival Conquest and Carnival Fantasy. In fact there were a few on the front row last night who were so laid back I thought they were dead. But I quickly learnt to give them time to laugh……to slow down….and as I said… seemed to work because they did laugh a lot.

Obviously the laughter had little to do with me and more to do with the characters I chose to join me on stage. For those new to the blog thingy I should say that despite what Steve Cotterel said it isn’t all about me. The Welcome Aboard show gives me the first chance to tell part one of the week’s story…….to make some people famous and whose stories and will continue throughout the cruise. I will be telling you more about some of those tomorrow. Well, it’s going to be a busy day and a long day but it’s great to be back in the CD chair once again. And so far everyone it seems is very happy indeed……………well………mostly:

Guest: Mr. ————Ref: 842081356A

Cabin: ——– Booking#: ——— Added-Changed: 08/08/10 – 08/08/10

GST came to the GSD and said that he and his group of 22 had left the show because there was no Spanish. Guest said that he was very angry because he had been told by Carnival that there would be shows in Spanish. Mr. ______is the group leader for the _____ group. Guest asked for meeting with cruise director. Note: Mr _______ speaks perfect English.

And so……………it begins………………….buggero.

Buenos Nachos
Your Amigo

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.